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U.S. Bank Stadium gets its Final Four curtain call

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Mike Vekich, chair of the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority
Mike Vekich, chair of the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority, talks at a press conference on Tuesday about some of the preparations for the NCAA men's Final Four as workers installed light-blocking curtains in the stadium roof.
Tim Nelson | MPR News

Almost a month from the Final Four men's basketball tournament, U.S. Bank Stadium has a way to better control the lighting.  Officials Tuesday showed off some of the massive curtains suspended from the ceiling, as well as drapes to block outdoor light from the signature glass doors.

The NCAA required the curtains as part of the bid by the Minneapolis stadium to host the games — in part to provide a consistent light environment for TV.

Mike Vekich, chair of the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority, said the stadium's maintenance fund will cover the $4.6 million in project costs. He said the ability to cut exterior light will attract more indoor events.

"It's not a blackout solution. It's a darkening solution," Vekich said as he stood under the new curtains, suspended between the roof trusses high overhead. "So as the rest of the curtains get up and the rest of the bays get covered, we'll have a darkening situation so that from a camera standpoint, we'll get good shots."

He said the curtains should last through the life of the stadium. Two religious gatherings want to use them.

Crews install curtains between the roof trusses at US Bank Stadium
Crews have installed curtains between most of the roof trusses at U.S. Bank Stadium, ahead of next month's NCAA Final Four.
Tim Nelson | MPR News

Curtis Schmillen, U.S. Bank Stadium's director of operations, said he's sure concertgoers will hear the difference when the curtains are in place. 

"When we just put the little ones up that we had before, you could tell the difference," Schmillen said. "This is going to take that to the next level."

Stadium general manager Patrick Talty said the Super Bowl showed that the transparent roof and giant glass doors were an asset.

"That's what makes this building unique; that's what makes it beautiful; that's what makes it the gold standard in the NFL," said Talty, adding that the Final Four made it "very complex for us." 

"Because of that competitive nature of needing the lighting to be the same for all teams, in all situations, we then have to take that, our biggest asset, away," he said. "We have to cover that and make it neutral."

Talty said the NFL draft might be another example of an event that requires shading.

The curtains hang on cabling that runs across the roof and are furled from the center ridge beam. To remove them, crews lower them near the Sixth Street side — like sails on a sailboat. Stadium officials say it will take about five days for several dozen riggers to put the curtains up or take them down.